Tag Archives: family

Family Stories

10 May
Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 10.04.24 AM

Left to right, Karen Foltz (my Mom), Anna Foltz (nee Stein, my Grandma), and David Foltz (my uncle)

I come from a family of storytellers. There are more than a few interesting ones to tell about family history alone. Some family members, my Dad and paternal Grandmother among them, are/were amazing oral storytellers. This made my childhood quite colorful and gave me the gift of imagination. The gene for telling stories was not passed on to me, but I can write decently enough to help continue sharing them. So I do.

Among the true stories, some are easier to tell than others. Today I was thinking about my Mom and my maternal Grandmother, as we get ready for Mother’s Day 2014. Much of my childhood, my Mom was housebound dealing with severe agoraphobia. She didn’t really leave the house for years, pretty much from the time I was five until I was in high school. I have a close relationship with my Mom and learned a lot from here during that tough time, mainly about resilience and spirituality. Thanks to modern-day anti-depressants, Mom doesn’t have to stay stuck at home anymore, which is a great thing.

My Dad was busy working most of the time when I was a kid, when Mom was sick, so my brother and I spent a lot of time at my Grandma’s house. She was the caretaker for a well-to-do family in Reynoldsburg named the Hafts. They had a large house on a bit of land right off Main Street. Inside the house was a bar, which was a real sign of wealth as far as I could tell. Their old stable had been converted into two apartments behind the house, and Grandma lived in one of them. I could walk to kindergarten from there, and every day I passed by a house where a monkey lived in the backyard, on a chain.

Grandma took care of the elderly Hafts to make a living, and my brother and I played in the little woods between her home and the Haft’s house. We rode our bikes up and down the lane and climbed high in the pine trees and sat up there for hours, getting sap all over our hands and legs, and were difficult about coming down when Dad picked us up.

From those trees we could see the awesome set-up of a neighbor family that had bought a trampoline for their kids. It was, according to all adults in our family, an irresponsible thing to do and sure to result in injury. But we loved to watch the kids jump on it and wished we could, too. When we were not in the pine trees, we could see the kids’ top halves flying up above the six-foot fence. It really wasn’t fair, but in the end we had the woods to run around in, and they didn’t.

When Grandma wasn’t stuck in her chair with back problems, she was getting herself in trouble with my Mom by trimming our bangs (unevenly), encouraging us with art projects (she was quite the artist), or patiently listening while I played the first Wings album over and over again. I remember her being patient when I flipped out over any TV shows featuring UFOs. Much to my brother’s disappointment, she made us turn off any program involving guns (including “Bonanza” and “Big Valley”). I remember that she helped us save a baby bird we found under a tree. We put it into a shoebox with some old cloths to keep it warm. It died anyway, but we tried.

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Robert Foltz

Much of Grandma’s life, and by extension my Mom’s, was greatly influenced by my Grandfather, a man I never met. His name was Robert Foltz, and he left for WWII when my Mom was five. While overseas, he met a Canadian nurse and sent Grandma divorce papers around Christmastime. I’m not sure what year it was. He was very intelligent and handled logistics for the Army, and I believe he worked for a long time after his service in high-level corporate positions dealing with transportation.

He passed away a few years ago, and in his obituary his family thanked his long-time personal nurse. When my Grandma passed, I was in my mid-20s. My parents were away on vacation, so someone from the nursing home called to tell me that she had “expired.” I was devastated, really, because I’d always had a close relationship with her. But I had just visited with her and was the last to see her alive, so I was glad for that.

My husband often uses my Grandma as an example for why Social Security exists. She worked her entire life in various creative ways. After her husband left, her older brothers and sisters let her live at the old family house, which she rented out as a home for unwed mothers. She did the women’s fashion window displays at Lazarus in the 50s, and she worked in the paint department at a store in Florida. In the 60s, she was a house mother for Grant Nursing School. Over the years, she always worked but never made a lot of money, and died in a place that took Medicare and Medicaid. My Mom and uncle ate a lot of ketchup sandwiches growing up, and my Mom’s toes are curled because she never had shoes that fit. My Grandfather did pay back child custody years later, after my Grandma took him to court, but that was after Mom and my uncle were grown. I don’t think that his second family really knows much about us.

There are always two sides to every story. I have no doubt that my Grandmother, as much as I loved her, was not an easy person to live with. So I’m sure that Robert Foltz had some reasons for deciding to leave. But I think it haunted my Mom for years, and still does. He never wanted to have any contact with his old family. I think Mom talked with him on the phone from time to time. She always wanted to see him but never did after he left. Sometimes when people go, there’s just an empty hole that the people left behind have to find a way to fill.

I wish I’d met him, too. He sounds like a person I would have liked, despite the family history.

 

 

 

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Memories of the Hawaiian Room and Outer Space

23 Nov
Image courtesy of bulldogz at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of bulldogz at freedigitalphotos.net

My uncle Barney Barnes just passed away. He was 82 years old, extremely intelligent, and a unique individual. I know that his widow and my Dad’s eldest sister, Aunt June, misses him greatly, as does my cousin Greg Ratcliff, who was greatly inspired by Barney in scientific ways.

I did not know Uncle Barney all that well into his later years, which I regret. But I do have vivid memories of time spent with him and my dad’s eldest sister, my Aunt June, when I was young. Here are some of them:

THE HAWAIIAN ROOM

When it came to visiting relatives’ houses, Aunt June and Uncle Barney’s mid-century modern home in east Columbus, Ohio was hands-down THE BEST. I’m confident that my brother Kirk and many cousins would agree.

June and Barney did not have any kids, so they were extraordinarily patient with their many nieces and nephews, but the key attraction in visiting them was their back room. One step down from the kitchen, this room was decorated entirely in a Hawaiian theme: tiki hut bar, palm tree, waterfall, and a lot of plants. I don’t remember whether or not the plants were real, but the palm tree was not. It didn’t matter.

For a young child, this room was 100% fascination and playground for me and my cousins. We served each other “drinks” from the tiki hut, rearranged the water flow in the waterfall (which I don’t think we were supposed to do), and pretended to be in, of course, Hawaii. I wish I could see that room today, but the house was sold long ago.

PROFESSIONAL ROLE MODELS

Both June and Barney were professionals–rare role models for me as a youngster.  They worked in engineering at North American Aviation/Rockwell International, and June went on to pursue a creative career as a photographer (my brother and I appeared as child models in many Christian Sunday school collateral).

Uncle Barney, notably, designed many missiles for Rockwell and then Boeing. I remember going to company parties at the Rockwell Park and receiving models of the Space Shuttle that they helped to architect. This was exciting–to have a relative playing a role in the company making the next generation of space exploration in the 1970s and 1980s. It made an early impression on me seeing my uncle’s use of his mind to create things, and this exposure in part inspired my desire  go to college and have a professional career. Uncle Barney was curious–and I absorbed a small part of his considerable spark.

THE INTERNET

In 1990, I went to Atlanta to visit Aunt June and Uncle Barney when I was a senior in college. They relocated there in the early 1980s when Rockwell was bought by Boeing. I remember sitting with Uncle Barney at his desk while he showed me a unique new thing: the Internet.

Barney demonstrated how he and his defense contractor colleagues shared “instantaneous”  messages through this new technology. It took longer to push things through the tubes then, but this was my very first look at the Internet, introduced by my technologically advanced Uncle Barney. I thought it was pretty cool, and since then I’ve sent and received about a million emails.

Rest in Peace, Uncle Barney. Your star is still shining brightly in our memories.

Bottle Patrol

28 Jul

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Everyone has their thing.

My husband’s thing is to be OCD about windows and doors in the house, specifically windows and doors being open or closed at certain times of day. And fans being on or off at corresponding times of day, to maximize air flow in our “naturally” air-conditioned home.

And my thing is bottles. That’s right: bottles.

Specifically, it drives me crazy when people (i.e., my husband, and following in his footsteps my son) open a new bottle of something when there is already an available bottle that is not yet empty.

This is a significant issue in the refrigerator and in our bathroom. It happens with ketchup, mustard, pickles, and personal care products. I have come to believe that this issue is associated with the regular requests from my husband and son that go something like:

Where is my ___________?

Note that I get this question on a daily basis, in person, via text and voice mail. I can guarantee that if I have an early morning flight, as soon as I arrive at my destination I will hear this question from either my husband or my son.

Another variation on this same theme:

I can’t find the milk (I just bought) in the refrigerator. Where did you put it?

My response:

If you just bought it and put it in there, why can you not find it yourself? Do you still have eyes?

And,

Why do I have to know where all of your stuff is?

If I am not around to answer these questions, then a new bottle of (fill in the blank) gets opened.

I have dubbed myself “Bottle Patrol” in order to keep this problem in check. This is a real-life story about the hell I go through to keep this house organized in terms of bottles.

Two weeks ago, I had to consolidate body wash, dandruff shampoo, and conditioner in the bathroom because there were so many opened bottles of the same thing. It took me an hour to do this, upending bottles and draining them into corresponding already open bottles, rinsing out the empty ones, and putting empty and washed bottles into the recycling.

This morning, Bottle Patrol was on duty yet again. This is often the case after my husband makes the bi-weekly trip to Costco. He grew up Mormon and therefore has a natural instinct for stockpiling large amounts of supplies. The man has strong survivalist tendencies. His philosophy of “More is better” gets him in trouble with the Bottle Patrol.

Upon entering the bathroom this morning, I noticed that the problem I’d cleaned up two weeks ago had reappeared:

Three bottles of dandruff shampoo (two as of yet unopened) and two bottles of body wash (one still unopened) were overpopulating the shelf in the shower.

My response (he was not here to hear me say it):

No, no, and NO! Why do you keep doing this! We have tons of storage space for all your extra supplies. Why do you have to put the new bottles into rotation when the old one is not yet empty? Why, why, WHY?

I often go on to ask myself:

What does he think will happen that he puts so many flipping bottles of stuff in the shower? Will he for some reason be taking a shower and finish off the opened bottle of dandruff shampoo, and then have to be forced to open BOTH of the new bottles? The man has no hair. I cannot imagine this happening!

My son, as mentioned, has these same tendencies. Being a newly minted pre-teen, he is all of a sudden uber-hygiene-aware. He is stuck on Dove Men’s Body Wash EXTRA FRESH with Cooling Agent and Micro-Moisture. Promptly upon opening a new bottle, he announces:

Mom, I need more of the Dove Men’s Body Wash, THE GREEN EXTRA FRESH KIND. Can you get me three bottles?

Clearly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to bottle accumulation.

I will train that kid, but my husband is beyond help.

Family Time

4 Jul

I am currently at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, on vacation with my extended family. There are 18 of us in a four-story house, with five branches of the Edwards clan. Eleven of the group are under the age of 25. Man, this house is loud.

Some highlights:

  • Overhearing my 11-year-old son and his two similarly aged cousins having a discussion about “Monk” while hot tubbing. “Did you see the one where….?” About 100 times.
  • Grocery shopping with my husband, making quiches one afternoon in an empty kitchen while everyone was at the beach…and other fairly routine activities that are made all the better by having ZERO competing obligations or distractions.
  • There are more bathrooms in this house than I can precisely remember. I think there are eight. A real necessity with so many people. I could go on…
  • This house has fabulous AC, powered by the wonders of electricity. Back at my house in Columbus, the power has been out several times, and it has consistently been 100 degrees. Here, it is only in the upper 80s. Cue the “ha-ha” sound effect.
  • There are several children among the contingent of cousins with behaviors reminiscent of my own children’s when they were younger. I find them endearing, and at the same time am quite pleased to be beyond having to police my kids.

Probably the best part of the trip has been seeing my kids get to catch up with all of their cousins, who live in Maine, Florida, and California. It must be a very instinctive behavior to get goosebumps as a parent when all of the kids are together. Something tribal or clannish about this. I wish we all lived closer–but it’s impressive that everyone stays caught up via Facebook, Skype, and texting.

With this very large extended family of my husband’s, I often find myself being an observer. There are so many big, loud, lovable personalities to just sit back and watch. I’m thankful to experience the rollicking fun (and occasional insanity) of being in a big family. Good times.

 

Intellectual Elitism

22 Dec

Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The other day my son issued this complaint:

Mom, at my school the kids either don’t read or read boring baby books. There’s no one I can talk to. All of them are dumber than me.

Hearing this, I had a mixed reaction, which went something like this:

  1. This is what I thought: I wish the kids at his school read more.  My is smart, no genius, but intelligent enough to think differently than most, perhaps more than most, often to his detriment. He does have close friends at his school who are wicked smart–many smarter than him. But the whole class isn’t like that…and is probably rare at most schools. Should he be at a school where he’s surrounded by kids who think more like him?
  2. This is what I said: “Never stop reading what you enjoy. I am proud that you read books that high schoolers read. You are a smart kid. But NEVER, EVER think that this makes you better than anyone else.”
  3. This is what I thought about some more: My son is a lot like me. I was a voracious reader in school and as the resident oddball enjoyed Dickens when I was in 3rd grade. I went to a good enough school, a public school with teachers who challenged me, and I was both too shy to talk with anyone about what I read and unlikely to find anyone my age who was reading that. I’ve always been drawn to esoteric stuff that most other people find boring. Over the years, I have grown to accept that this is at times a self-imposed isolation. I need to get out more often and stop taking myself so seriously…this is MY lesson. As a parent and having gone through similar feelings when I was his age, how can I help my son to not feel like he’s alone? Luckily, my son’s intellectualism is balanced by a huge personality (something that he got more from my husband). I’m confident that this interesting mix will result in amazing results along the way, but not without a bit of sanding around the rough edges.
  4. This is the most important thing: In feeling that sense of being “the only one” who’s thinking beyond, or differently, how can my son not begin to think he’s better than everyone else? This brand of intellectual elitism can be found in the ranks of many people who live on the coasts, who believe that everyone in Middle America is an idiot. I have friends and relatives who feel this way and will probably offend them by saying this but don’t care since they’ve already offended me. I’ve also worked with people who felt this way, that because they were intellectually smarter they were innately better. My hackles go up anytime I catch a whiff of this brand of intellectually elitist thinking.

Intellectual intelligence is without doubt one of the ways that we as humans can leave our mark and improve quality of life for our fellow human beings. But it is not the only way.

Social intelligence–the ability to engage thoughtfully and with heart–is a huge force for change. Where would we be without the supportive words of our parents or the unexpected hug from a friend? Social intelligence can motivate individuals and change the world as much as intellectual intelligence–and maybe moreso.

I think it’s important to teach our children to appreciate their strengths and nurture them. It’s also important for them to remain humble and to use their intelligence as a way to innovate for the greater good–and connect with other people rather than becoming more distant from them.

Birthday Magic

21 Dec

Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday was a good birthday. Let me count the ways:

  1. While I love my work, I was able to leave a bit early, and a minimum of annoyance happened throughout the day. While at work, I celebrated with a colleague who shares the same birthday by giving her a mix tape/CD that I made for her…I think she will like it.
  2. I got my new license, sliding in just under the wire 15 minutes before the BMV closed.
  3. I ate dark chocolate (during my last two conference calls of the day, phone on mute).
  4. My friend Ali Cloth gave me a yoga gift certificate and some beautiful flowers. Plus a great card with this hilarious message: “It’s so nice to have friends that are worth the time….otherwise I wouldn’t keep hanging around your ass.”
  5. Lots of people wished me happy birthday, thanks to the electronic reminders at work and on Facebook. It really is the best thing just to hear/read people say/write it!
  6. My husband made the most fabulous dinner: Medium rare filet mignon, giant baked potatoes with sour cream and freshly cut chives, and a lovely salad.
  7. My husband bought me the best birthday cake from a new bakery close to Graceland. Fluffy white cake with three layers of chocolate ganache and a butter cream icing (not too much, not too sweet). And hey, guess what’s for breakfast today?
  8. My kids and husband bought me a new set of Fiestaware (lime green)–since they know I like practical gifts. They also got me a new necklace and earrings, since they also know that I like personal gifts. Added bonus: The dishes came wrapped in a very large sheet of bubble wrap, which made a thunderous popping sound as I jumped up and down on top of it.
  9. And then, my kids and I watched all of “The Simpsons” Christmas episodes. I always believe it’s good to end the day with something sublime.
  10. Today, as I have my second piece of birthday cake for breakfast, the world will officially begin to become a brighter and better place. So even though it’s raining cats and dogs in Columbus, Oh. and becoming more like a rainforest by the second, the days are getting longer. Take THAT, crappy wet weather.

And that, my friends, is the making of birthday magic.

So Muchmas

19 Dec

Image: John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I really am blessed. I have all of my family members around me, happy and healthy, as we close in on the holidaze.

Counting down, it’s just six days to Christmas. We had my family over yesterday. I enjoyed seeing my nephews, niece, sister-in-law, Mom, and Dad. I missed seeing my brother (but to be fair can see him anytime because he’s in town.)

My husband cooked up a big pancake breakfast, and I made real hot chocolate and smoothies for everyone. It felt good to get the house cleaned up and host a shin-dig. I particularly enjoyed watching my 3-year-old niece open her gifts (art stuff) and experiment with her new watercolors, paintbrushes, and over-sized SpongeBob coloring book.

There’s a bittersweet-ness to the holidays that has me down, though. I wish I felt closer to my family of origin. At this time of the year when everybody gathers around, there’s a sort of expectation that everything’s perfect. Well folks, it isn’t, in so many ways. Everybody has their story about this–nothing to feel ashamed or sorry for myself about–just reality.

My challenge this year, I think, is to break free of the expectations around Christmas. How much to spend. How much to feel that overwhelming sense of togetherness. How much to givegivegivegive. And forgive. How much to expect. That’s the problem with the holidays. It’s the “much-ness” that gets me down.

There’s an expectation that this time of year is the coming together of all that is good in life–family, acquisition, food and drink, generosity, the overall milk of human kindness. Yet when all of the pieces don’t come together it’s easy to feel disappointed and resentful. Like I am not working hard enough or am not innately good enough to attract that fairy dust of muchness around me.

In the end, families, friends, and life in general will be what they will be. Children will appreciate what suits them and not me. Parents will be themselves–not the superheroes that I at times imagine them to be. Friends will remember or not remember that my birthday is tomorrow and that I do not want a combined birthday-Christmas present (TAKE NOTE!). Husbands will be unnecessarily grumpy or inexplicably kind. And I can choose to take it all too seriously–or let it go and let it be.